Authorities to investigate handling of environmental crisis in eastern Colombia

Posted on Mar 24 2014 - 10:47am by Rico
(Photo: El Tiempo)

The Inspector General’s Office intends to conduct a review of local authorities in eastern Colombia accused of privileging oil interests over a growing environmental crisis.

The announcement comes just days after the Casanare state government declared an environmental emergency amid an ongoing drought that has resulted in the deaths of at least 20,000 animals.

MORE20K animals dead in east Colombia drought

The Inspector General’s Office says it will look into what actions the local authorities have taken to adress the state’s environmental concerns, according to national media. In particular, the oversight body will examine why the state prioritized the expedition of oil exploration permits, even in the midst of the crippling drought.

“There is no doubt that the oil industry has the most aggressive effect on the environment, and that what is happening in Casanare is a sum of different factors associated with man and climate change,” said Oscar Amaya, the Inspector General’s chief prosecutor for environmental issues, in an interview with Caracol Radio. “Because of this we want to determine if there were any omissions made by public officials when developing strategies to curb [oil exploration's] negative impacts on the environment.”

Located in the plains to the east of Colombia’s capital of Bogota, Casanare has only 330,000 citizens but does boast a rich biodiversity and some of the country’s lushest grasslands for cattle grazing.

In recent weeks, cattle, along with wild fauna like caiman, fish, turtles, other reptiles and capybara have perished in the thousands due to dehydration. Photos of the environmental disaster show hundreds of animals, wild and domestic, competing for small pools of water.

State Governor Marco Tulio Ruiz is reportedly pursuing measures to divert water from reservoirs and rivers to temporarily support wildlife, cattle and agriculture until the drought breaks.

Tulio’s press release said that the “government is drawing up an action plan (for the) short, medium and long term.”

The governor also said he would call on oil companies in the region to use their resources and equipment to alleviate the environmental catastrophe.

Environmental experts have speculated that the unnaturally dry season could be the result of early climactic changes brought on by global warming.

Colombia is typically susceptible to seasonal droughts, however the severity of the current drought in Casarare is unusual in its decimation of animal populations. Researchers predict global climate change will have a disproportionate and early effect on tropical countries, such as Colombia, where the ecosystems are highly specialized and not accustomed to fluctuations in temperature and the like.



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